The weeks are rapidly running away from me, and it would be a lie to say I’m not worried about fitting everything in. Currently all I’m able to do is read my primary texts, and have no time for language work or critical reading, which is stressful to say the least, as I’m worried about producing essays that demonstrate no real contextual knowledge nor critical insight. It’s particularly frustrating as I know I am fully capable of writing really, really, really good essays – I’m just wondering whether I’ll physically have time to do the revision needed to achieve that. I have no second-year exams to fall back on, no big dissertation, and I am rather worried about the possibility of blowing this one chance I have.
Stress has started to pop up in odd ways – nausea, the sudden inability to survive on any less than exactly 8 hours of sleep, and – perhaps most confusingly – the increased tendency to do strange things in my sleep. I don’t mean merely walking around or talking: I mean sitting up in bed and methodically, systematically throwing clothes at my sleeping boyfriend’s face. I’ve been trying to remind myself that stress right now is completely normal, and it would actually be weirder NOT to feel stressed at the moment! Still, I wish it wouldn’t manifest itself in such novel ways – for both my sake and my boyfriend’s!
After that cheery intro, let us reorientate ourselves – I spent most of last week at home in Frimley with my family. Most days were spent bare-faced in my pyjamas, lying in bed reading Cervantes’ famous novel Don Quixote. It’s 1000 pages long and so I mainly relied on John Rutherford’s spectacular English translation, occasionally referring to the original if I sensed something hadn’t been fully translated. This novel is one that I immediately want to restart as soon as I finish the final page, and the second reading was even more rewarding than the first. In summer, I’d like to spend time reading the original Spanish, as it’s surprisingly straightforward if you’re used to the style of the Exemplary Novels. It’s a really, really important book in terms of the development of the novel as we know it, and I find the exploits of the hapless hidalgo and his faithful squire by turns absolutely hilarious, educational, inspiring, and tragic, so I’m really glad I’ve studied it, and hope to return to it throughout my life.
I didn’t just read last week – I also had a few adventures! On Tuesday, my mum and I took a long-awaited trip to London as a very belated birthday celebration (and I mean very – her birthday was in July!). She’s a massive fan of health food, so we planned our day as a kind of ~superhealthy~ pilgrimage around the city, beginning with the mae deli, a cafe owned by Ella of Deliciously Ella renown. We initially walked past the deli several times as there was so much scaffolding on it that it was impossible to see the name! However, once we stepped inside we began to feel worried about whether we’d even be able to eat there as we had hoped – the queue was pretty disorganised and the staff looked frazzled, we were worried there would be no room to sit down, the price list was already rather beyond our budget and sneakily didn’t even include VAT…
Just as we were whispering to each other that maybe we could just grab a snack and make a swift retreat, a woman came up to where we were standing. She introduced herself as from a market research company, and was wondering if she could ask us a few questions about healthy eating – at this point, I was already going to agree, as I always like helping out with surveys if I have the time – and in exchange, she would buy us lunch! Obviously I said YES without even asking my mum what she thought, and I think we both felt as if all our Christmasses had come at once! They were really nice and it was great fun formalising our existing thoughts about the health food craze – I’m quite sceptical of many bloggers and the trend of gentrification, which was reinforced later when I saw small pots of ghee being sold for £13! (And probably being bought by people who would usually complain about Indian food being “too oily”…) The food was alright – it kind of reminded me of nice hall food (from college), but probably not something I’d pay ~£10 for, and I was appalled that the juice I’d chosen would have cost £7!
We continued our trail around London and were amazed at the hundreds and hundreds of health food shops and cafes we saw. The weather was so gorgeous – we’d really lucked out, as the rest of the week was pretty appalling – that we decided to walk the forty minutes from Oxford Street through Piccadilly Circus down past Hyde Park and Park Lane to Knightsbridge. I didn’t mind missing my beloved Zumba, as we walked 13km that day, and were absolutely exhausted the following day…
Harvey Nichols was an absolute dream. We had a great time at the makeup counters – I was particularly excited to get colour-matched for CoverFX drops, and I’m thinking of picking up the pigment from Beauty Bay. Let me know if you’ve tried the Custom Drops by CoverFX – I’d love to hear what you think! Dinner was at the Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor cafe, and I have to say I’m seriously impressed! The service was as speedy as you’d expect from a designated cafe, but everything was meticulously done and the steak was probably the best I’ve ever had. In all, it was a fantastic day and I’ll definitely think back on it for a long time.
The rest of the time spent at home passed without much incident, and my last evening was marked by my sister’s boyfriend coming round bearing Wii Party, which the four of us played with much gusto – I kind of sucked at everything apart from the word games (at least, I wasn’t the one who believed syphilis to be a kind of fruit…) and the quiz, but it was great fun. The only negative part of my stay was my unsuccessful attempt to practise for my Spanish oral exam – I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I’ve unfortunately developed a kind of block around this particular exercise. I’m not sure why, because the German ones are completely fine, and I had hoped that practising at home in a quiet familiar setting would help, but I still had a bit of a meltdown halfway through. Instead of doing practices, I’ve decided to just learn as much vocab about various topics as possible, so I’m more prepared for tricky questions on things like terrorism and the educational system. I’m not ashamed to be falling back on A Level methods of revision – sometimes you’ve got to work with what you know! In any case, I certainly felt more prepared at A Level than I do now… If any past students reading this have any tips, please let me know!
No sooner was I back in Oxford, it was time to leave again! My boyfriend and I had been invited to blogger friend East Londonista‘s birthday celebration at her flat in London, and despite being friends for a couple of years now, it was actually my first time meeting her! The X90 trip up to London was pretty smooth and we actually ended up arriving a good 45 minutes early, so we chose one of the many South Indian restaurants in the area and sampled their idli and masala chai. The get-together itself was lovely, as I always value the opportunity to meet and talk to different people (especially as meeting people not in academia is kind of rare at the moment…) and the group was small enough to actually be able to have meaningful conversations.We stayed the night, enjoying the excellent hospitality of my friend and her fiance, and all went to Vapiano in Soho the next day before leaving. We rushed to catch the X90 back to Oxford, but disaster struck when, just as I was in the queue to board the bus, my ticket flew out of my hand, under the bus and far away down the road! Luckily my anguished cries prompted other passengers to explain my predicament to the bus driver, who let me on still, albeit with a highly sceptical facial expression. Perhaps he just couldn’t fathom how someone could be so unlucky. Staying over was a great decision, because it was fantastic to have the chance to spend more time with our new friends, and I hope it’ll be our turn to host next!
Sunday night was spent trying out yet another new place to eat with the DPhil friend who revealed the delights of Gloucester Green Market to me the previous week – I had a delicious Thai coconut chicken soup, but was rather shocked that any restaurant can have the nerve to charge £4 for plain rice… Although I was tired, I had a fantastic time, and it’s quite annoying that my social life has to slowly deflate in such a tragic manner over the next few weeks, as I just want to hang out with people before they leave Oxford!
I mustn’t forget to mention that I received an offer from Magdalen for next year – at graduate level, the department offer comes through well before that from the college – which was the last bit of my application to be processed! The fantastic thing is that my advisor person will be the professor in charge of modern languages here at Magdalen, who has already been an amazing source of support this year when I was struggling with mental health things and a heavy workload, and so I know I’ll be in good hands should I ever have future problems. Of course, I can’t relax about any of this, as it all depends on my final grade, but I’m hoping and praying that it all works out.
Whew, that was a long one! I’ve been receiving a ton of emails lately from prospective applicants, which is a far better way to spend my free time than on Facebook, so email away! Don’t forget to follow me on Snapchat (oxfordlinguist) to see ~exciting academic snaps~ if that’s your cup of tea, and see you next week!